Afraid of the other, Christ was not

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Last year, Antiques Roadshow came to Omaha, where I live.

This television series invites folks to bring in the detritus of their closets and attics, as experts evaluate whether, monetarily speaking, their stuff is trash or treasure. It then explains the history of these items. I love history.

And you may love Grandma’s “antique” vase, for example, but on Antiques Roadshow you can find out if it’s worth twenty bucks or $2,000, and how much that little chip your kid put in it might have devalued it.

I immediately signed up for tickets and fantasized about what artifacts I’d bring. Unfortunately, there’s a lottery for tickets and I didn’t win.

When the Omaha program finally aired this spring, I watched from the sofa.

Probably all of us who’ve taken freshman history in college heard the professor jokingly threaten students with George Santayana’s famous quotation, “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

But Santayana’s words, often used by Winston Churchill, really do carry meaning.

A recent Omaha news story told about a young attorney in a tiny rural Nebraska town who is remodeling the upper floors of a building that houses his law practice. To his amazement, in the crawl space of the attic, workmen found an old, musty smelling box containing over 30 Ku Klux Klan outfits dating back to the organization’s Nebraska heyday in the 1920s.

The Nebraska Historical Society, which has only three Klan robes in its collection, said it was a remarkable find.

Why would someone keep them? What does it reveal of the history of the remote hamlet of less than 1,000 people?

Someone very wise told me that in the Gospels, we should always pay particular attention when Jesus crosses a border — a physical one, or even a psychological or cultural one. When he crossed into Samaria, his encounter at the well broke down many barriers. His encounters with women — whether the one about to be stoned or the one first to meet his risen body in the garden — were groundbreaking. Christ reached across borders to the other.

In today’s political climate, the other is often feared. Just today, a popular blog referred to a prominent columnist as a “renegade Jew.” Anti-Semitism and racism creep ominously into the political discussion.

And in the same issue that covered the Klan robes, the local paper reported that at a political party’s Nebraska state convention, a resolution passed opposing the relocation of any refugees into America. Not just a reevaluation or strengthening of parts of the program, but a ban on any and all refugees.

This happened in America, the America of which Emma Lazarus wrote, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses … the wretched refuse of your teeming shores.”

As the great-granddaughter of an orphaned kid who made it to America in a dilapidated Irish famine boat, I condemn that resolution.

As Christians, we know that Christ was all about inclusiveness. He lived in perilous political times just as we do. Many of those flocking to him were hoping for a Messiah who would kick the Romans out, not someone who embraced lepers and ate with outcasts. They wanted muscle.

People who wore Klan robes in olden days and those who want to keep out any and all refugees are both fearful. Christ destroyed fear — he denied it. Some people today want mindless muscle, not thoughtfulness or mercy. That’s their answer to fear.

To the student of history, there’s very little new under the sun. But there is Christ, who makes all things new and to whom we turn in a season of peril.

The writer is formerly from Anchorage. She now lives in Omaha, Neb.


'Afraid of the other, Christ was not'
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